Friday, June 20, 2014

Natural-Born Storytellers

Have you ever noticed that children are natural storytellers? They don't need a muse. Creativity just bubbles out of them.

Some little ones prefer to sing their stories. My sister was one of those. She would happily entertain us with melodies recounting the adventures of a particular balloon or flower. I was older and usually trying to read my own book; I wasn't as enthralled by her singing as I was mesmerized by the tales woven by the authors I loved. The grown-ups usually thought it was adorable. (It was.)

my son and niece (who looks just like her mother) as ninjas

If you've ever babysat, worked with children, or have friends with little ones you might have noticed their amazing abilities. I love to sit down with the ones I know and just listen to their stories. A well-placed question or two does wonders in unlocking their imaginations. Even children you've just met will quickly open up to an engaging smile and listening ear (in their parents' presence, of course.) A smile aimed at a bored child at a grocery store might result in an invitation into their imaginary world.

Once while shopping I kept bumping into a pair of preschoolers, a boy and a girl, who seemed to always be half a row ahead of their mother. The sister looked older and seemed to be the ringleader. They were hiding behind carts and baskets and jumping out at each other, their mother, and other shoppers. The little boy would smile at me as he passed, but the girl would only look at me cautiously. The third time I passed, by she grabbed his arm as he smiled at me again and whispered loudly, "She's one of the bad people!" He looked at me, puzzled, and said, "She doesn't look bad." So I raised my egyebrows and grinned mischievously at them. They both giggled gleefully and ran back to their mom. Any time I passed them again I received giggles and smiles from both.

my daughter in her imaginary world

The best little storyteller I've met in a while was a charming girl named Shae-Lynn. I met her and her mother when I was stuck spending a long evening in the emergency room with my daughter. Her mother was a lovely and friendly young woman who kept a watchful eye on Shae-Lynn while she made friends with the patients around her. There were seven or eight of us confined for several hours in a cubicle meant for one hospital bed, sitting in uncomfortable chairs. It was late and crowded, and the wait would have been dreadful without our little entertainer.

First she decided that she was a restaurant doctor. Yes, a restaurant doctor. We were served imaginary food and had our injuries attended to by Shae-Lynn. We were quite happy to play along. Sometimes she was the doctor/server. Sometimes she was the patient. On the wall there were boxes of purple surgival gloves. They bewitched her. First she wore a pair while "examining" us. Even the smallest size flopped off the ends of her little hands. Then she tried her best to persuade the rest of us to wear them. When that bored her, she was easily convinced to sing songs for us. Her mother was obviously proud of Shae-Lynn's precocious and still well mannered behavior.

my son immersed in a book

After the songs I asked Shae-Lynn to tell us a story. She was quite happy to invent one for us. My daughter Emilia was a part of our little imaginary world, too, so the main characters of her story were Emilia, Shae-Lynn's mom, and me. Since she loved the movie Frozen, she named me Princes Anna (declaring that I had the right color hair to be Anna). She decided her mother should be Princess Amma (not to be confused with Princess Anna), and Emilia she named Princess Rose (which pleased Emilia because her best friend's middle name is Rose). It was a lovely, rambling story. We climbed up a high mountain, there was a Prince, one of the Princesses got angry and the other Princesses had to go find her. Eventually she gave us a happy ending.

Not only did the time fly by while we listenend, but this sweet girl made all the sick, sad people trapped in that little room feel better. It took us out of our painful reality for a little while. We lost ourselves in her imagination. And that's what true storytellers do, whatever their age.

No comments:

Post a Comment